This article contains spoilers through Shogun episode 7.

The women of FX and Hulu’s Shōgun may be limited in the roles made available to them by the patriarchal structure of the show’s setting in feudal Japan, but that doesn’t mean they are totally powerless in the growing conflict. If anything, the women of Shōgun hold more power than they are given credit for, and several of them are especially adept at wielding it. 

As Mariko (Anna Sawai) so eloquently puts it during a conversation with Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada) in episode 6 “Ladies of the Willow World,” “A man may go to war for many reasons. Conquest. Pride. Power. But a woman is simply at war.” For women like Mariko, Ochiba (Fumi Nikaido), Kiku (Yuka Kouri), Fuji (Moeka Hoshi), and Gin (Yuko Miyamoto), this sentiment especially rings true, for they must all be constantly on edge, willing to bow to the politics and whims of men at a moments notice.

Mariko is obligated to serve Toranaga to make up for the sins of her father, who is responsible for killing Ochiba’s father, the ruler before the Taiko. She yearns for the sweet release of death so that she may join the rest of her family who gave their lives for her father’s deeds, but is not allowed the satisfaction due to her obligations to Toranaga and her abusive husband Buntaro (Shinnosuke Abe). 

However, despite the fact that she is unable to join her family as she so desperately wishes to, Mariko performs the hell out of her role as Toranaga’s translator. She is the only one that he trusts to communicate with Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis), and without her, there’s no way that these two men could have gotten past their own egos and found a way to communicate effectively. She has the power to choose how their words reach each other’s ears, and often softens some of their phrasing to avoid further conflict during such a tense time for all in Japan.

Similarly, Fuji wishes to reunite with her husband and son in death, both of which were killed in a ritual sacrifice after standing up for Toranaga’s honor in front of Lord Ishido (Takehiro Hira) in Osaka. However, she still carries out her duties as Blackthorne’s consort to the fullest extent, even going so far as to train in combat to fight alongside him should the need arise. Fuji and Mariko are a big part of the reason that Blackthorne is even still alive, because without their guidance, he probably would have gotten himself killed.

Kiku and Gin have also been tasked with keeping the peace among men as courtesans at the Willow World. These women have come from nothing and built one of the most respected establishments in the country, despite the fact that most men don’t see them as anything more than objects to be used at their discretion. Kiku and Gin are able to see these men at their most vulnerable, and as the attempt on Saeki’s (Eita Okuno) life proves, can use that to their advantage. They may appear neutral, but they have more influence on politics than the men they entertain are willing to admit.

Lady Ochiba may be considered the villain now that her true intentions for Toranga’s downfall have been revealed, but it’s hard to blame her for using what power she has as the Taiko’s widow and mother to the Heir to try and take back what was stolen from her. The fact that she has the Regents so firmly in the palm of her hand is a testament to her strength and the power she wields.

After her father was killed, she was essentially forced to become the Taiko’s consort and given all kinds of strange herb concoctions to ensure that she produced the heir that his first wife couldn’t. She believes that Toranaga is responsible for orchestrating her father’s assassination, and therefore responsible for the life she’s been forced into.

Though she may be on the opposite side politically, Ochiba is really not that different from the women mentioned previously. She has been dealt a terrible hand by society and forced into a role she didn’t want. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t making the most of it.

These women are more than prepared for the coming conflict because they were fighting a war of their own long before Toranaga fled Osaka. They may be limited by the roles society has thrust upon them, but the power they hold within those roles should not be underestimated. They play their parts so well that sometimes even they don’t realize how much influence they have over the men in their lives. The pride of Toranaga, Ishido, and their allies may be driving the conflict, but Mariko, Fuji, Kiku, Gin, and Ochiba are the true power players of Shōgun.

New episodes of Shōgun premiere Tuesdays on Hulu and Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. ET on FX.

The post Shogun: Mariko, Ochiba, and What it Means to Be A Woman at War appeared first on Den of Geek.

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